Australia’s courts have just upheld a new law that requires tobacco products to be packaged in “plain packaging.” As far as we can tell, this law includes not only cigarettes but also cigars and pipe tobacco. The “plain packaging,” however, is not plain at all. The packages will include shock images of cancerous lungs, gums, and more. These images will be grotesque in nature and will probably scare away a fair number of customers, including people who aren’t even coming into stores to shop for tobacco products!
What will the long term results of this law be? As far as the positives go, hopefully the shock images really will educate the public about the dangers of smoking tobacco, because let’s be honest—those dangers do exist. There are going to be some negatives as well, however. Economically this law will harm a lot of small businesses in Australia, and it’s not going to stop people who are determined to smoke from buying cigarettes or other tobacco products. What it may do is compel those people to turn to other sources for their tobacco products, fueling the black market and harming legitimate businesses in Australia and elsewhere.
People who want to avoid these packages will just turn to the streets to buy tobacco, and who can blame them, especially given that packaging is often part of the appeal of a product? People who want cigars in their original packaging, for example, will no longer be able to buy those cigars from local tobacconists in Australia. They’ll have to turn to black-market cigars, which may not even be the real thing. This will harm cigar companies, including boutique manufacturers who put quality craftsmanship into their products. Should people be apprised of the dangers of tobacco in cigars? Of course—and most cigar smokers already are. These laws are usually aimed at protecting ignorant young people, and while the young people do need to learn what tobacco can do, the fact is that most youngsters who are going to dive into a bad habit are going to buy a cheap pack of cigarettes and not a box of premium cigars.
While this law seems mainly geared toward cigarette smokers, it’s also going to strip the packaging of cigars and pipe tobacco products, rebranding those packages with shock images. Cigar smokers don’t usually smoke a pack of cigars each day, however, and it seems unreasonable that the same law which should rebrand the packages of cigarette companies should also rebrand the packaging of cigar companies. While cigars carry health risks just like cigarettes do, many cigar smokers do not smoke them as a habit; instead they are reserved for special occasions, and collected for their beautiful packaging as well as the artistry in their design.
Right now the FDA is fighting to be able to enforce plain packaging laws in the US for all tobacco products including cigars. If the FDA wins this dispute, similar economic consequences will ensue in America. We’ll have to wait and see how this law unfolds in Australia when it goes into effect, but we’re pretty sure the ramifications will have a major influence on what happens in the US and elsewhere in the world where tobacco products are concerned.